As a result, progress depends only on me. With my nomadic digital activities (to earn a living), Spanish is… how can I put it, my n-th priority. I realized that I had lost a lot of vocabulary and that my oral comprehension was catastrophic, in spite of our stay, after the first world tour, in Seville and Colombia. I inquired about Spanish courses in Colombia and the prices discouraged me (12$/hour – private course).
But in Granada (Nicaragua) where we are currently, the rates are among the cheapest in Latin America, namely 6$/hour (private class), as in Sucre (Bolivia), so I registered, despite our rather short stay and my busy schedule.
Spanish Dale Language School
There are several schools in Granada but I preferred Spanish Dale Language School for the setting: classes are held at the Mansion de Chocolate. And being a student there gives me a 10% discount on everything (massage, swimming pool, coffee…) 😀
There is no classroom as such, I sit in the large corridor, next to a small green garden, but it’s better this way – because there is a little wind (+ the fan) and the garden is very nice. The only drawback is the mosquitoes, but when they are too ferocious, the teacher gives me herself an anti-mosquito product ahahha
As everywhere in Latin America, they like to offer 4 hours of classes per day (up to 6 hours/day if the student is very highly motivated) and often sell packs of 20 hours – which corresponds to 5 days of classes. Of course, you can take 2 to 3 hours of classes per day – but that might go by too fast.
And most schools offer prices for “course only” or “full immersion”, i.e. you are accommodated in a homestay – usually with someone who only speaks Spanish, with full board (or not).
The “total immersion” offer at Spanish Dale Language School is super interesting because for only 100$ more per week, you are entitled to a private room & full board. It’s super economical especially since Granada is full of expensive restaurants.
As JB doesn’t take classes and my classes are scattered here and there, it’s easier for us to pay only 20 hours of classes for me; and to stay elsewhere (for 10€/day a double room). My 5-day course is spread over 2 weeks, allowing me to work in between and visit the surroundings of Granada.
Accustomed to the Colombian accent, I am a bit surprised the first days in Nicaragua because they speak with a third of an octave above the Colombians and some s aren’t pronounced (the s at the end: e.g. más o menos turns into ma o meno). And they seem to articulate less well than the Colombians. Being less used to seeing tourists, they make less effort.
But fortunately my teacher articulates well, speaks slowly and is careful to pronounce all the letters. It at least gives an impression of progress – because she is one of the only Nicaraguan women I understand ahahah
During the 4 hours of class, we alternate between verb conjugation (present, past, future, imperfect) and discussion (whether or not to use the newly learned verbs). This is especially an opportunity for me to get used to Hispanic sounds again, and to ask him all the questions I want about Nicaragua.
What are we talking about in class?
My teacher lives in the country and it seems like a little paradise. Outside of Spanish classes, she raises two types of chicken: the artisanal pollo (very small, which is sold unfrozen, at the market, already killed) and the pollo indio (free-range chicken, which is sold alive). At the butcher’s, we find mostly industrial chicken, frozen and it’s not good at all.
I’m an absolute fan of farm chicken (Vietnamese chicken is the best in the world and it’s been a long time since I’ve been in Vietnam), so I asked him a lot of questions about farming, how to feed the chickens etc. I’m a big fan of farm chicken. She tells me that she raises new farm chickens at the beginning of the year because after one year, they are big enough to be sold in December. This way, she will have a better price and will at least be able to make a profit on all the food she feeds them (they eat better than me I have the impression).
It is THE essential dish for Christmas in Nicaragua. This type of chicken is always sold alive, so that it is fresh. And in Nicaragua, everybody, but absolutely everybody knows how to kill and pluck a chicken (I assure you that I asked him the question several times for fear of not understanding correctly).
In front of my astonished look, she tells me that Nicaraguans know how to do everything and especially those in the Masaya region make magnificent handicrafts, work with wood to make tables that are too beautiful, and hammocks that are very complex but do not cost too much.
In the countryside, tap water only flows 2 to 3 times a month. It is therefore equipped with a huge closed basin which allows to recover water for the whole month. The shower is obviously taken with a bucket (no pressure to have a real shower) and electricity is out of price. Below a certain threshold, it pays an economic rate, but if you exceed this threshold, the rates are doubled. In Nicaragua, for example, everyone is very careful to save electricity and only turns on the light when it is really necessary. In Granada, electricity is even more expensive than in the countryside. Moreover, that’s why many hotels give us two prices: a very economical price if we are satisfied with a fan in the room; and the price is doubled if we want to benefit from the air conditioning.
There are projects to recover rainwater – because some families, too poor, cannot build a pond. But rainwater promotes algae growth and is a mosquito nest – so some projects help to provide the infrastructure to filter rainwater for them.
Before, in the 80s, there was a train that served large cities and small villages. But it ceased to function following the civil war and then the American embargo. The rails were stolen and to get to the small villages, it is now necessary to take 2 buses. To go to school in Granada, my teacher has to take 2 buses, which makes her 4 hours round trip every day. If we add the 8 hours of classes she has to give to the students, it makes a very, very long day.
Her son received a small scholarship to go to a computer school, but in exchange he has to get up at 4:30 to catch the school bus to school – which starts at 7:00. On Saturdays, he also has to do volunteer work in a hotel, so he has almost no rest. His other children go to a school closer by and like all Nicaraguan children, help out a lot at home, whether it is cleaning, cooking or gardening. She tells me that there is no “prince” or “princess” here, everyone works. However, it is customary for parents to give each child a piece of land as an inheritance – and with the many children that each family has, this isn’t easy.
It seems that Nicaraguan women become mothers very early: 16-17 years old and many are single mothers, or live with their boyfriends without getting married. Marriage is no longer a very popular option. And men seem to be quite free, adultery is common. The male-female friendship doesn’t seem to exist, so single foreign women who come here and befriend Nicaraguans, aren’t well regarded by their girlfriends, they are often jealous and don’t understand this platonic friendship.
Two currencies circulate in Nicaragua: the Cordoba and the U.S. dollar. There are many things that are imported and the cordoba fluctuates so much that people prefer to exchange in dollars. Moreover, in tourist restaurants, prices are often indicated in dollars and converted into cordobas with the daily rate. In front of the banks, on the street, there are always men, super badly dressed, but with bundles of cordobas and dollars in their hands – this is their version of an exchange office. My teacher tells me that this type of “exchange office” is very safe, and we’ve seen a lot of locals exchanging money this way too.
I like the relaxed atmosphere during the classes. It’s very tiring to work and learn Spanish at the same time but once I’m there, I find energy and I have a good time, I learn things and I feel more like talking to someone than being in class.
I clearly don’t have a lot of time for homework, so my teacher doesn’t give me homework. Since classes are in the afternoon, in the morning, I just give myself 2-3 hours to review what we learned in the previous class and try to memorize everything. But it’s pretty hard. In 3 classes I had to learn how to conjugate more than 280 irregular verbs, and I don’t know 2/3 of them.
What I like about it is that it doesn’t let me make mistakes. Even if I have to be corrected every 3 seconds, she doesn’t hesitate. She understands a little bit of English, but only uses it to explain the meaning of a word – which I can’t understand, even with the explanation in Spanish.
It motivates me to continue taking classes, at least in Leon, Nicaragua. If in El Salvador, the fees are too high, I will try to take online courses (my school offers them too).
In any case, I strongly advise you to opt for Spanish courses on the premises, as this allows you not only to learn but also to ask any questions you want to the locals. If you can, a course for two with total immersion would be ideal.